Running Head:








California Proposition 19 on marijuana legalization received a lot of attention from local to international public. This proposition was seeking to allow for recreational use of marijuana by allowing people over the age of 21 years to cultivate, possess or transport marijuana for personal use. However it prohibited possession on school grounds, driving under influence using it in public, providing it to those under 21 or smoking in presence of minors. Introduction of this bill was brought about by debates that taxing marijuana would bring a lot of revenues to the state of California.

Discussion forums were held on whether it was appropriate and a lot of arguments ensued between conservatives and liberals. All this went on in the various mass media and campaign gatherings. Television networks invited guest panels which included politicians, parents, doctors and civil right leaders to debate about legalization of marijuana in California. Fox network held discussions with Glenn Beck, Fox News, Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and Sarah Palin. Beck told viewers that Marijuana should be legalized and that the country should take a stand to either crack down the dealers and growers of marijuana or legalize it. The discussion on televisions extended to radio networks where debate was conducted by presenters and guests including lawyers and judges.

Interviews were conducted on news papers, television, radio and online discussions were also held. Civil right movements and statistical companies conducted countrywide polls on those who opposed the Proposition 19 bill and those who supported it. Politicians could be recorded in their public election campaigns supporting the bill or rejecting it.  Many however did not comment on the bill because it could lead to political suicide as was witnessed when after making a stand, polls on popularity of the politician either increased or decreased. Pamphlets were distributed to the public while leaflets were posted on walls, streetlight posts and subways. Technology devices were not excluded as online discussions ensued on website pages and trough social network cites like Yahoo, Google, Face book and Twitter. All these method ensured all citizens were conversant with the bill and their voting rights.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws held a conference targeting those opposed to the law. This forum was to include those who felt left out in the drafting of the bill to provide a ground on which discussion would take place. Other similar conferences by physicists were held to discuss proposition 19 creating awareness on its content and what it meant for the political and economic scenery. Public speaking debates were conducted with the aim of involving the public in making an informed decision.


Media coverage of the events on marijuana legalization in California was exceptional judging on the quality and quantity of information that they gave. This was a statement given by Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann. Many people did appreciate the way the issue was handled. Thanks to the growing innovation, the public was spoilt for choice of the media outlet to choose ranging from newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, television, radio, online discussions and websites,(Lipton, 2010).The quantity was overwhelming. In previous similar motions on legalization of medical marijuana in other states like Nevada were afraid of even gracing the cover page with such news. The media shied away from discussing drugs extensively and instead gave priority to other news. As a result, the motion failed mainly because the public was not aware of in depth knowledge of the consequences of medical marijuana or why it was important.

Things were however different in California as detailed points of view concerning marijuana, its legalization and what it would mean if passed, it being the first motion of its kind in America. The quality of information given by the mass media was accurate and objective. This was so because well researched news was disseminated to the public and the media involved both advantages and disadvantages of the bill.

Opinions from across the divide were given priority to so as to maintain the role of the media as neutral. However, not all media outlets were unbiased. Some circulating leaflets campaigned for its support giving only figures and facts as to why it was necessary to pass the bill or reject it. Such leaflets were not objective in providing the pros and cons then leave the people to make their decision.

The media is supposed to inform the public without bias and with objectivity. However the kind of frames the media uses has an emotional and mental effect on the public and can sway the public’s emotions positively or negatively. On the Proposition 19 bill different frames were applied by different media outlets.

Human interest frame was used at times in news papers and electronic media, giving a story on history of people supporting the bill based on the help they have received from marijuana medically. Such is the story of Ann Lee a catholic and a republican who never before supported marijuana for she believed it easily led to addiction into a world of illusions. All this changed when her son Richard suffered a spinal injury and his hope was marijuana. After witnessing improvement on Richard, she even supported him in opening of a medical marijuana facility in California and a trade school which dealt with pot research in Oakland, (Eve & Katie, 2010).

The conflict frame showed different conflicting views from politicians, lawyers and civil right leaders. It portrayed each side’s opinions on why the bill was to be supported or rejected. In the case of Republicans, they were against full legalization of pot because of social consequences of addiction and also this would be a gateway for more drugs to gain entry into the markets or it would form a basis to legalize other drugs. Democrats were not left behind either as they campaigned against the bill promising to counter it by federal laws, (Hoeffel, 2010, Jul 12). While others gave the opinion that legalizing pot would make a lot of revenue to the federal and state governments, (An &Gower, (2008).

Pastors, Imams and other religious leaders contributed to the moral frame where marijuana legalization argument was put into the context of religion and morals. Bible verses and Quran verses were quoted and discussed on what they said about drugs and their use.  International media like Al-Jazeera also analyzed the pot issue in accordance with Islamic Sharia laws. The overall message from the religious leaders was that it is sin to use drugs that lead to dependence just for leisure supporting the opposition.

Economic frame was utilized in gathering figure and facts of just how rampant marijuana trade was even with no legality. According to a poll conducted by Cato Institute, legalizing all drugs would save the government $41.3 per year on costs associated with enforcing the law and would generate $46.7 billion as tax. Marijuana would contribute $8.7 billion on reserves and $8.7 billion as tax. $14 billion per year is made from trade in marijuana in California alone which is never taxed.

Attribution frame was applied in most opinion polls that placed the responsibility of failure of the government in fighting drug trafficking in US. The Mexican government heavily criticized the federal government for supporting such motions given that the Mexicans were trying to fight drug cartels, (Marosi, 2010, Oct 8). The media application of these frames helped the public form their own opinion on whether marijuana trade should be controlled and taxed, (An & Gower, 2008). The Proposition 19 bill was portrayed as a society problem that needed to involve the young and old in forging a way forward without considering race, religion or political affiliation. The media covered the issue extensively bringing all sides of the story and leaving it to the voter to make the final decision.

Journalism is all about giving the correct information without twisting it to get the desired effect. They are tasked with verifying sources of information before they can make the public know. In creating awareness on this bill, the media went deep to cover the agricultural state in US California. Some documentaries and written information focused on the dwindling water resources in California due to farm irrigation and illegal growing of marijuana in California forests. According to Kornell (2010), a journalist who visited the medical marijuana farms in the attempt to verify his information puts across the severity of water shortage in California which is aggravated by increasing population and climatic change. He discusses that marijuana do not require a lot of water to cultivate and it might create wealth to the Californians.

The problem lies in that food crop and marijuana will be competing for water resources so it will be logical to criminate pot cultivation because marijuana is not food in favor of growing more food as the unpredictable climate would place California and the whole of America in drought. This however is just one piece of information in a topic that the media have been shying away from, (Nadelmann, 2010).California being the largest agricultural state in the US it would have been logical if the media instead of focusing on the debate issue it should have brought factual stories on the future of agriculture in California and how it would have been affected by legalization of pot. The media did not also cover the costs that would result from insuring marijuana industry if legalized. This shows that the media did not give full coverage on the news and not many sources went ahead to follow up documentaries like Kornell did.

Generally the media generally covered a lot of ground in scouting for real and verified information. The topics kept changing as other perspectives arose keeping the California state informed on the progress of the issue. Coverage ranged from the beer industry spending a lot in the campaign against pot legalization to posting blogs on the internet. The website blogs were kept up to date with social online discussions. In conclusion the media was thus versatile as it was able to give comprehensive news.

Marijuana legalization is a hot topic of discussion as it generates views from across the board. Some support its legalization which would save the state a lot of money spent in arresting, investigating and convicting marijuana offenders either by possession or sale. It would also earn the state billions in form of taxes on marijuana. This is supported by the facts that in the current laws where marijuana is illegal, it is a popular trade between Mexico and the US. This illegal trade earns a lot of money that is not taxed.

The Proposition 19 Bill on legalization of marijuana in California was defeated by a vote of 53.5% to 46.5% as per the California Secretary of State’s statement on results of the ballot. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is illegal; a law signed by California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 2010. Although medical marijuana possession is legal in California and 12 other states, any kind of possession is a criminal offence under federal laws.

The media played an informative role in creating public awareness through discussion forums and interviews on various sources of information.

They dealt with the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana by inviting guests to give more insight to the public on the consequences. Facts and figures of how legalizing marijuana would affect economy and health were presented. Opinion polls of public view were also collected By conducting polls, the public was informed of where majority support lay during the campaign period. Some media outlets remained neutral while some either supported or rejected the motion. International media also focused on what other countries thought of this move and its effect globally.

Sober discussions are essential in any motion so as to direct the public on what is right or wrong. Public policy officials were wrong on saying that the government was talking tough about overturning the legalization of pot in California. Instead they should have educated people on the federal laws against drugs including marijuana and the possibility of the congress overruling state laws. The United States constitution is very clear that the state is not allowed to make laws that differed with the federal laws. Success of medical marijuana legalization may however have created a sense of security about full legalization. People argued that this would affect companies in California would be short of employees who would not have been assured of a drug free zone.

Laws governing the trade of marijuana if legalized, how it would be taxed and how the state government would have controlled the farming so that safe fertilizers and other farm inputs are used, should have been drafted first before the bill on pot legalization. This might have given confidence to voters that the state was committed to legalizing pot and measures were in place to ensure this freedom is not abused. The voters were maybe afraid that marijuana cultivation would get out of control because of non existence of laws to govern it.

Some public policy officials were documented saying that marijuana is a gateway to other hard drugs. This information has no basis of foundation since marijuana is a crop and research has shown that it relieves extreme pain when used on cancer patients, people with migraines and spinal cord injury better than does the medicated pills. Others have shown that pot smokers do not use the hard drugs and the crime rate for a pot smoker is lower compared to that of alcohol which is legal. Giving half truths is not doing justice to the public but creating ignorance and reluctance of the public to search for more information since most believe that the politician or a celebrity cannot lie and is always right.

The public policy official should also have regulated the coverage on the Proposition 19 so that a wider ground would be covered instead of concentrating so much on political debate. Political debate was given so much publicity given that it was during campaign period and the public looked up to various candidates on what they thought about the bill and which side they supported. This bill was not only for the politicians to win votes but it also concerned the people. Topics that did not even find time to be discussed like what would happen if the bill was passed, what laws would be used to implement it so that it does not spill out of control, were overtaken by politicians. Politicians are not experts and they will say what befits them at that time then change their mind suddenly. Public policy officials should therefore have ensured that other views from players in the field who were conversant with marijuana were given prior coverage.

The failure of the bill however reflected the will of the people who did not want to be exposed to drugs or their children to fall victims of the bill they passed. Statistics indicate that the majority of those who voted against it were elderly and mature adults.





An, S. K and Gower, K. K (2008), How does the media cover crises? A content analysis of crisis news coverage, University of Alabama, United States of America.

Eve, C. and Katie, M. (2010), Pot and the gop, Newsweek, 156(180, 30-35.

Kornell, S. (2010), Marijuana, dark horse savior of California agriculture, Business and Economics, 16(4), 5-7.

Lipton, S. T. (2010),Marijuana legalization fact sheet and resource tool, Guide. Retrieved on February 6, 2011…/Marijuana-Legalization-Fact-Sheet-Resources.htm

Marosi, R. (2010, Oct 8), Mexico: Felipe Calderon criticizes California’s marijuana legalization measure, Los Angeles Times

Nadelmann, E. (2010), Marijuana legalization: Not if but When, The Huffington Post .Retrieved on February 6, 2011…/marijuana-legalization-no_b_778222.html

Hoeffel, J. (2010, Jul 12), Feinstein backs effort to defeat marijuana legalization, Los Angeles Times




An, S. K and Gower, K. K (2008), How does the media cover crises? A content analysis of crisis news coverage, University of Alabama, United States of America.

Eve, C. and Katie, M. (2010), Pot and the gop, Newsweek, 156(180, 30-35.

Kornell, S. (2010), Marijuana, dark horse savior of California agriculture, Business and Economics, 16(4), 5-7.

Lipton, S. T. (2010),Marijuana legalization fact sheet and resource tool, Guide. Retrieved on February 6, 2011…/Marijuana-Legalization-Fact-Sheet-Resources.htm

Nadelmann, E. (2010), Marijuana legalization: Not if but When, The Huffington Post .Retrieved on February 6, 2011…/marijuana-legalization-no_b_778222.html.


Written by